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Catalonian elections: Madrid is bad, austerity is worse (+video)

Voters in Catalonia dealt a blow to the Spanish region's ruling party, rejecting its pro-austerity economic policies despite its popular efforts to seek Catalonian independence from Madrid.

BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) - Catalan parties pushing for a referendum on breaking away from Spain win strong backing in an election, while voters punished the rich region's leader Artur Mas, forcing him to share power.
Video Length: 00:01:03
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If there was one lesson from Sunday's elections in the Spanish region of Catalonia, it was this: Residents of Catalonia may want to be rid of Madrid's central government, but they want to be rid of austerity even more.

Catalonia's ruling, pro-austerity party suffered a stinging rebuke in regional elections Sunday, as voter discontent with its economic policies appears to have tripped up its push toward Catalonian independence. And while a historic voter turnout – 70 percent, the highest in decades – gave a 64 percent majority of the regional parliament's seats to parties in favor of an independence referendum, it also exposed a Catalonia fractured along left versus right lines, and denied any party the kind of majority political mandate needed to drive Spain’s richest region on a path toward independence.

The governing center-right CiU party, led by Catalonian President Artur Mas and a driving force behind the region's independence push, won only 50 seats in the 135-member parliament – a defeat considering the party not only fell far short of the absolute majority it was seeking, but in fact lost 12 seats from 2010. 

Many of CiU’s voters threw their support to the election’s biggest victor, ERC – Catalonia’s traditional left, pro-independence but anti-austerity party, which more than doubled its number of seats to 21. The regional representations of Spain’s biggest formations, the Socialists and Popular parties, won 20 and 19 seats respectively, although the Socialists Party of Catalonia shed eight seats in parliament. Smaller parties won the remaining seats.

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